What could be more satisfying than a hotel with its own library? Claire Wrathall catalogues five ...

From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Winter 2010

The rise of the Kindle and its rivals may mean that many people can travel with a virtual library of their own, but fortunately for lovers of ink on paper there are some hotels which offer guests access to carefully curated collections of actual, tactile books—and also provide convivial spaces in which to read them.

The Ambassade, Amsterdam
Thanks to the ties it has forged with the Dutch publishing industry, this independent 59-room hotel—fashioned from ten 17th-century merchants’ houses on a canal—has long been the lodging of choice for visiting authors, many of whom have donated signed editions of their own work to its library. Established in 1987, it now runs to more than 1,800 books by writers from 76 countries and is housed in an elegant antique-filled room just past the reception area. Doubles from €195, room only.

Carlisle Bay, Antigua
When Gordon Campbell Gray opened his Caribbean resort in 2003, he solicited lists of “top 10 beach reads” from friends and travel editors, a group, it turned out, with intriguing tastes (who reckoned on Goethe and Lermontov as holiday reading?). Principal credit for the eclectic mix is due to Philip Blackwell, of the bookselling dynasty, who compiled the 1,200-volume library which fills a strikingly modern, fully air-conditioned building in the gardens. Doubles from $380, room only.

The Library Hotel, New York
The Dewey Decimal System may seem an unlikely concept for a hotel, but that’s how this friendly 60-room Midtown boutique classifies its ten floors—hence the six-digit room numbers. Each floor is themed, like the sections in a bookshop. If you don’t find anything to read in the 25-100 titles in each room—more of a challenge if you’re in 600.003 (management theory), than, say, 800.001 (erotic literature, where you’ll find Casanova’s “Histoire de ma vie” by the bed)—look in the lobby which has 6,000-odd titles. Readings are held on the 14th-floor terrace. Doubles from $255, B&B.

Le Pavillon des Lettres, Paris
A sister to the Pavillon de la Reine (perhaps the loveliest hotel in Paris), this new boutique hotel off the rue Faubourg St Honoré has named each of its 26 rooms after a writer—an alphabet of authors from Hans Christian Andersen and Baudelaire to Xenophon, Yeats and Zola. Each room has an iPad loaded not only with the guest directory, which you can use to order room service, but also daily newspapers, a selection of music and the oeuvre of the author in question. Doubles from €300, room only.

The Commune by the Great Wall, near Beijing
Just over an hour’s drive from Beijing, on a mountainous estate by the Great Wall, stands this architecturally stupendous hotel, a cluster of villas designed by 12 leading Asian architects. The Poplar Kids’ Republic Picture Bookshop, more a shop than a library, has titles in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, and hosts storytelling sessions and “happy reading hours” so that parents can go and walk the “wild” (unrestored) wall—quite tough going—unhindered by their offspring. Doubles from 2,700 yuan, B&B.


Claire Wrathall writes about travel for The Financial Times and The Guardian. Illustration: Neil Gower